Rather than recap everything from @JAMxNatalie EXPO, I’m only going to focus on the things that either connected to older bits of news here or turned into points of discussion online. If you’re like, I wish Thing X were up for discussion, leave a comment!
The Fake Four were down to three for most of the last few months when they decided to make all the news at once: bi bi bi bi bi, their third full-length album, was forthcoming; oh and Yasui Yuuhi was definitely out because reasons, and Momose Momo’s sister Akira was going to take her place.
They rolled out the new lineup at JAM and, well:
Including a new song!
I think Billie Idle’s going to be fine. They’re one that, even if you aren’t that big on their music, are worth the price of admission just for the way they approach their sets. It’s bare-bones, just the members doing their thing, a whirlwind of energy and sell-out commitment to putting on a damn show. You may have heard that I’m, uh, partial to First Summer Uika, and this stuff is a great example of why: She absolutely commands the stage, interpreting the performance the way she wants to do it at all times, whether it’s bellowing through a lyric because she wants to keep it interesting or going full auctioneer to cover the MC portion in time.
Oh, and the rest of the group is pretty good, too. I always forget how totally Momo can crush some strange spots; she could front any number of groups. Akira sounded good and meshed in well. Non-chan never disappoints her very devoted personal fans, and I daresay that she’s getting better live. Most importantly, it’s clear that she — along with everybody else — is having a great time out there.
There were some mixed reviews of this performance, I was surprised to see. I’d like to know what the naysayers were seeing (or smoking), because this was a pretty standard PassCode set for festival stages, which is to say that they blew the roof off the place.
If you know PassCode, you know these songs. You know that Nao is a dangerous woman with a mic in her hands, that Kaede’s playful disrespect toward every person in the building is part of her charm, that Hina is one of the most underrated singers in the business, that “Club Kids Never Die” deserves a gold medal, and that Yuna at the top of her game is one of the most exciting things in idol. Seriously, NATASHA, talk about a missed opportunity for you.
Also re: Yuna, I love that she followed up the development of a black metal-style raspy delivery with some work on the bottom of that tone. She sounds like hellspawn.
Bellring Girls Heart
A funny thought struck me while putting this together: At some point in the last year or so, Bellheart became a really big damn deal.
They’ve been scenester favorites for a long time, but between the release of Beyond and a best-of album, it seems like they are and have been everywhere. Their JAM set encapsulated it all: Subtle power, discordant beauty, mesmerizing presence. The fact that they combine not being able to sing with deliberately bad singing just adds to the magic. They’re what your over-indulged college art major friend would have done, except they’re doing it better than just about anybody and you last saw that friend at a party a little while back and he was trying way too hard to sound excited about doing Americorps for like the third time.
One of the most-hyped things to happen at JAM happened. Twice!
It was kind of a weird performance, starting with Rinne’s Rap and finally getting around to what they’re now calling “Justice in the Sky,” which is such a terrible YEAH METAL! lyric that I love it. I think the whole thing laid bare a weird tautology for a group like this: You have to give every one of these people a chance to shine, so you load up a song for power vocals (and call on SCRAMBLES to do it) and let everybody do what they do best. But just like I was a little worried for some divaing, that’s kind of how it played out live. The choruses were like an invitation to pop a vessel; Chitti was my main point of interest, and I was glad that she got to keep it toned down just a touch, though singing parts outside of her normal comfort zone.
I still like the song a lot, and I think NATASHA as an entity has a ton of potential to do great work (and continuing to blur the lines that normally define what counts as mainstream or proper for idols). I bet this killed in person, in fact. Through video, though, without a clear mix on the vocals, it was a little rough.
The next person to stick up for this set, the three-member version of the Idols Formerly Known as POP and Why Not Pla2me Too, will be the first I come across.
If you don’t know the group and its history, you’ll still probably wonder what the hell’s happening on that stage. That’s what you call trying too hard, kids. It’s what happens when every step you take toward some definition of success is waylaid by forces you’d just as soon not acknowledge are right at home. Ao’s graduation, that happens; whatever happened with Maaya, that’s bad housekeeping. The lack of identity is starting to sting a little bit, and I’m undramatically but really suggesting that GANG PARADE might not be long for this world.
We’ll always have “pretty pretty good” either way. What a song.
Man, are people hating on this one!
Folks have been second-guessing the new BiS lineup ever since the auditions ended. Was Pour Lui’s gambit to bring back the grand matron of them all just a huge gaffe?
Yes, it’s kind of a butt performance. Well, the vocals are kind of butt. Lui of course sounds great because she’s a great singer, but the only other current member who seems capable of carrying a tune is Kika Front Frontal, and she’s not the one in the second lead role that Yuffy and FSU made work. That’s Aya Eight Prince, and it sucks to see her do not well because she actually can sing. Was it nerves? She just sucks on stage? I don’t know. Regardless, the less said about Peri Ubu and Godzilla right now, the better.
Outside of the voices, man, it still felt special to see something officially BiS on stage, doing a live performance. I even dug the outfits, Godzilla’s looking a little like she belonged on the Enterprise notwithstanding. And they dance about as well as you’d expect from a BiS.
I’m ultimately withholding real-deal judgment on this until after the album comes out and this set of idols is working with music that’s theirs. Let Pour Lui and Watanabe re-build excitement by playing the standards for a few weeks, then release a lead that beats “BiSBiS” and remind people not that you used to be great, but that you came back specifically because you needed to remind everybody who’s the best.
Speaking of the best!
With all due respect to others on this list and one that I didn’t bring up (You’ll Melt More!, who are also the best), what BiSH is doing right now is ridiculous. Yes, they had a built-in fan base just by being anointed as BiS’s successors, but they’re on absolute fire right now, and this set really brings that home.
What can you even say? Their music is completely on point, they perform like they’re trying to impress everybody in the building and, oh yeah, they’ve carved out a signature piece of their own in “Hoshi ga.” KiLLER BiSH only needed to be good to keep the momentum building, and, as I was only too happy to report, it’s goddamn excellent. If it sells the way it deserves to, if they’re able to keep leading the charge to demolish the line between idol group and rock band, they’ll accomplish what their forebears never could and sell out Budokan by the end of next year.
JAM was a lot of fun if you were able to follow it. There’s more stuff in the playlist I stuck on the running thread doodad, including the aforementioned You’ll Melt More! (who were great, as you’d expect), Osaka Shunkashuto (who were also great and really need to get out another album soon because I love “Baby Crazy” but I’m also tired of it being the most exciting thing in their set. There’s Party Rockets GT, MAPLEZ, PIIIIIIIN, the World Standard … it was a good time! And that doesn’t even include the petit pas! farewells that are addressed elsewhere.